CTS-developed AI data projects presented to Board

CTS-developed AI data projects presented to Board

BISMARCK, N.D. – Representatives from Core Technology Services, including Chief Information Officer Darin King, demoed a newly created AI data assistant Jan. 18 for attendees at the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education’s (SBHE) monthly meeting. The platform was one of several AI projects CTS’s Information and Data Executive Governance (IDEG) Committee will continue develop later this year.

The IDEG Committee was created in 2020 to improve methods used for accessing and reporting North Dakota University System (NDUS) data. They engaged with a consultant for long-term planning to create, implement, and oversee NDUS data management goals, standards, and practices. To operationalize these concepts, IDEG hired Ryan Jockers to serve as the assistant director of institutional research.

King says the group now has additional staff to contribute to data model work each day. The group has already developed a financial dashboard and has introduced it to all NDUS campuses. IDEG has also vetted consistent data models to ensure campuses and their researchers get consistent responses using data research tools.

IDEG’s most current AI proof of concept is an AI assistant used for accessing SBHE policies and procedures, as well as North Dakota Century Code. It also can assist with information regarding North Dakota Office of Management and Budget fiscal and administrative policy, the North Dakota Constitution, and the NDUS Human Resources manual. The group also is working on a data lake for NDUS and its campuses, which is a centralized repository for structured and unstructured data.

“And that’s where we are trying to build these capacities, to move all of this data that we have across the university system into a place where it can be curated and managed and organized so that it can be used effectively,” King said. “So, a lot of things got done without a lot of financial investment but there was an awful lot of great work done by a lot of people across the university system.”

Jockers gave the SBHE a live demo using the AI assistant. He said IDEG will move forward with more AI model testing.

King also announced he is retiring in June 2024. SBHE Chair Tim Mihalick thanked him for his work and service to North Dakota and higher ed.

Prior to the IDEG presentation, Board members heard from Ms. Brenda Zastoupil, NDUS director of financial aid, who gave an overview of the 2023 Annual Scholarship Report Academic Career and Technical Education in North Dakota. The report is required statutorily each year and is presented to Legislative Management. Zastoupil noted the data within the report has not changed much, but the scholarship program has seen some revisions over the last few legislative sessions.

Some of the more notable points within the report include:

  • Around 23 percent of high school seniors qualify for the scholarship. About 89% of those who qualify receive at least one disbursement.
  • There has been an uptick in scholarship usage. During the first five academic years, about $5.7 million was distributed, whereas during the last five years, $17.3 million.
  • There is expected to be about a four percent increase in disbursements compared to the prior biennium.
  • Scholarship earners are retained in North Dakota for work or further higher education at a higher rate than non-scholarship earners (Chart 5 on page 9).

Another discussion on the agenda for the SBHE meeting was a recent presidential compensation study. Board member Dr. Casey Ryan did note that some presidents were not being compensated commensurate with salaries for presidents at similar institutions. While no action was taken during this board meeting, further discussion will take place before president contract renewals in June 2024.

“Because of their success, some of our presidents are being recruited,” Ryan said. “Presidents move for all different reasons. But I don’t want to see a president leave who is doing an excellent job because of compensation.”

Additional SBHE Business, Reports

Vice Chancellor Jerry Rostad gave the SBHE an update about work being done for a strategy review with Gov. Burgum in April. He also gave Envision 2035 Working Group leads the opportunity to brief on their progress. Most groups have been involved in discussions and further reports will be shared at the next Board meeting.

Student Member Sadie Hanson introduced Lance Hill, leader of education outreach and financial literacy at the Bank of North Dakota. Hill shared with the Board that his team has been developing an outreach campaign for a new financial wellness resource titled “Smart with My Money.” The campaign will begin in April and coincide with Financial Literacy Month. He asked the Board for its endorsement and the Board made a motion with unanimous support.

The Board heard first readings of Policies 303.1 (SBHE Meetings and Agendas), 504 (Resident Tuition Law and Guidelines), 507 (Student Publications), 510 (Rights of Students Called to Active Military Service), 602.2 (Report on Faculty Appointments), 701.2 (Developmental Leave), 705.1 (Executive Compensation), 803.1 (Purchasing), 803.4 (Purchasing Cards) and 806.3 (Moving Expenses) and all were approved.

Second readings were heard for Policies 306.2 (Internal Audit Charter), 409 (Degrees Offered), 420 (Accreditation), 604.2 (Performance Evaluations: Chancellor) and 706.1 (Board Members and Advisor Per Diem Payments).

No public comments were made.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 29.